LIMA — Elizabeth Hardesty remembers the Lima of her youth as a booming city. But in the years since she graduated from Lima Senior High School, Hardesty has watched as Lima’s population dwindled, stores shuttered and once-popular summer youth programs have disappeared.
The lone registered Republican in the four-way race to become Lima’s next mayor, Hardesty has channeled her concerns about the city’s future into a campaign focused on economic growth and revitalization so families and retail move back to Lima.
“After 30 years of heading in one direction,” Hardesty said during her campaign launch in March, “we have the rare opportunity to change course and reshape our city’s future.”
Hardesty, 40, attended Lima schools and fully funded her undergraduate degree through scholarships to Wittenberg University, where she studied mathematics.
She later earned her master’s degree in geological sciences from Michigan State University and is now an exploratory geologist for the oil and gas industry.
Hardesty’s campaign has emphasized investing in essential services, from public safety to public parks.
She’s proposed replacing the chief of staff position with a safety services director, who would help the fire and police chiefs procure grants, recruit officers and report safety concerns directly to Hardesty.
“There are other things like economic growth and bringing in businesses that can’t happen until this is addressed,” Hardesty said. “That why it’s so important.”
To encourage more economic growth, Hardesty wants to connect residents to existing educational and vocational programs, so the city’s jobless rate decreases and jobs don’t go unfilled.
To encourage more private investment, Hardesty has suggested re-examining the city’s ordinances and, particularly pricing and rules set by the building department. And Hardesty wants to see more single-family homes and senior housing, so more families move into the city and retirees don’t leave Lima in search of smaller homes.
But Hardesty’s campaign has also faced questions about her residency, which was upheld by the Allen County Board of Elections in March and is now the subject of a civil lawsuit filed by a former chairman of the local Democrat Party.
Voting records show that Hardesty, who lives on Lincoln Avenue in Lima’s 6th Ward, has been an active voter in Allen County since 2000, including the 2020 Republican primaries. Her candidacy was upheld by the Board of Elections, which rejected a challenge that claimed Hardesty was not living in Lima six months before the campaign filing deadline. The second challenge alleging Hardesty was a resident of Pittsburgh and Houston for the past 15 years is still pending.
“I’ve always been a resident of Lima-Allen County,” Hardesty said last week. “I have voted here my entire life. I have never tried or made an attempt to vote anywhere else. I do have to work out of town, and that’s where everything’s coming from.”
‘Like running a business’
As a geologist, Hardesty analyzes sub-surface data and rock formations in search of oil. She’s worked high-profile exploratory projects for the oil and gas industry, including multi-million dollar deepwater exploration projects that have taken her around the world.
“As a geologist,” Hardesty said, “you can’t be wrong. You just can’t, or projects don’t work and things become really, really bad.”
Hardesty has worked for Fortune 500 companies and vendor companies alike, she said, and has learned the art of contract negotiations after participating in negotiations as a contract holder and person pursuing a contract.
Hardesty’s career has shown her the world outside of Lima, an experience which she said could benefit the city when international companies come looking for new sites to build factories, distribution centers or headquarters. And it’s her business experience that Hardesty believes makes her distinct.
“I have a full view of what a business is like,” she said. “Running a city is very much like running a business. You have to take care of the money and you have to take care of the people.”